Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Remote Control Devices Usability

Recently, I had been to my relatives' place & was watching television for some time. As I took up the remote control to change the channels, increase-decrease the volume, I was irritated as the remote control designed in such a way that probably the end-user was not considered while designing it. I think this might be an issue which many remote control gadgets faces.

As I was thinking a on it from the usability point, I had something in mind, which I have tried to jot down here. I may be wrong somewhere, but I am sure that any device & the way it gets operated needs to be designed while keeping the end user in the mind. That's what we are supposed to do!!!

As I visualize easy-to-use, usable remote control device design:
To make it best usable, fundamental thing to start was to "keep minimum". I have considered the minimum but core functions for a remote control for a television. Respective changes needs to be considered while designing a device-specific control gadget.

  • Power button on extreme top left becomes handy & allows quick-use.

  • Mute on extreme right stands out & allows users to use it instantly when it really needs to be. Generally, users keep finding the 'Mute' button when actually users need it quickly most of the time.

  • Volume & Channels should be navigational with UP & Down arrows, rather then back & forward arrows. For users, it is easy-to-understand & becomes usable.

  • Channel numbers should be clean & preferably with no other key combinations (for example, a key assigned to some other functionality by pressing an additional key like “Function” , etc; which many a times confuses users who are not so tech-savvy.

  • A remote control device should have minimal buttons on; so that it can make the users life better, not worst. If advanced functions are on it, they can be used the bottom part of the remote device; which is ‘not-so-prominent’ area & as well as comforts the user by not mixing the ‘regular-use’ functionality with some ‘rare-use advanced functions’.

  • Preferably, a brand name should be followed by the model no of the remote device; which helps the user to buy the same in the future by simply referring that device / model id; in case the device is not working properly or broken. This really helps a lot, when it comes to buying a new similar remote control device.
Please post your feedback / suggestions on this; which will help me a lot. Thanks.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

No Gyan! Some Fun!!!

I am planning to put some goodies like wallpapers, etc. on this blog, featuring & explained some Usability, IA concepts wherever possible; whenever possible. :)

The below one is the first one in the series. Do download it.

The resolution is 1024 x 768 px. If you want this stuff in different resolution to suit your system's display resolution, do comment here or e-mail me. Thanks for your support.

Looking for navigation?

I have seen lot of websites, portals & enterprise applications in the past years; with different kinds of navigations & the way those have been placed in the design.

I have seen a few things common in most of them. This is not something new I am telling; which is already been stated several times on various forums & knowledge-based sites, but this is what I have experienced while designing information architecture & wire-frame designs for several clients.

This is a generalization, though recommended for the ease of use to the end-user; which is most important goal of an Information Architect. Below given are 2 observations for the same:

The user behavior is generally intended to find a site navigation, by starting on the top left & then using the menus places on horizontal right or vertical left (downwards).

Also, most of these sites had the search functionality, placed on the top-right corner of the web-page. Even the research has proved this technically.

Due to conventions that gets followed by the several existing sites, such things become 'kinda' thumb-rule when it comes to designing usable websites, even though it is not mandatory for anybody. I will try to put in more information on the same in the next part of this.

Do you differ with these ones or have some more serious thoughts? Please do provide your valuable comments here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Navigation Design (Part 2)

Navigation design guidelines (continued...)
  1. Keep the navigational elements consistent across the website: Make sure that all the links & navigational elements are kept consistently on the same place as there have been anywhere else, in terms of links, styles, etc. User can find them easily anywhere in the site.

  2. Design it to ‘load fast’: Do all your design & development by considering a user having low-speed internet connections. Make sure that your all your site HTML, CSS, Flash components (if any) loads faster, so that users do not get bothered by the in-essential time it takes to load the whole stuff.

  3. Quality as against to Quantity: Internet users like minimum options & clicks to get the desired information. CREATE sub-sections & sub-categories to help the user to “navigate easily & locate the required content easily & quickly”.

  4. Browser-Compatibility: There is multi-browser application environment. Do compatibility tests for your website before it goes live on major browsers like “MS Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Netscape Navigator, and Opera” & check if the look & feel as well functionality of JavaScript used in the site is working well.

  5. No un-essential stuff in the navigation: Non-core Information like “Privacy Policy, Terms of use, even Contact Us (in most cases)” should not bein the main navigation & can be placed in the “bottom menus” zone.

Navigation Design (Part 1)

Navigation plays a 'core' role' in case of any kind of product development, whether a corporate website, a portal or an intra-net application that's designed to cater internal as well as external users based on certain security policies.

These guidelines are basically for those sites who wants to deliver a "usable" interface, unlike graphics & animation rich websites who are visually appealing but sometimes lacks ease of use, due to unclear navigation systems.

Following are the few points which serve as a generic guideline while designing a navigation.
  1. Navigation Placement: Make sure that the navigation is placed at an easily visible location, so that the users don’t have to“guess” or “search” for it.

  2. Place important things on high: Keep the important things on the top area of the page, preferably in the first half of the page. Such significant information should get displayed first to the user.

  3. Banner Blindness: Make sure that you don’t put any content above the ad. Banners as users are tend to ignore all the content that’s displayed above ad banners. Make sure especially that navigation is not placed above such banners, as ‘navigation’ is very important & should not be ‘lost’.

  4. Avoid being unconventional: Designing website navigation in an ‘unconventional’ way to make the site stand out from the crowd is NOT a good method of navigation design. It becomes difficult for the users who are now quite used to the general web design practices of designs, navigations & such other generic functionalities.

  5. Home link should always be there: Homepage being core of any website, a back-link to the homepage should always be there. Also, it is very much possible that user might have landed up on your website through some search engine or have come directly to your sub-page / inner page, a “home“ link always helps them to come back to the homepage of your website.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Feasibility Document

As I was working on a pre-design analysis of a project for an 'x' company, I realized that I need to organize all the thoughts into a document which will have all the possible information related to the client, their needs for developing an application or product, targeted users & their needs, branding, possible outcomes of this project, etc. I generally named this document as "feasibility study" as it gives us a preview-kind-of-thing to the possible development & outcomes as well.

Below, I have given the structure of the document I started using wherever possible, to have a concrete information in place for referring it across the product development.

Kindly comment on it, to help improve this document as well as myself.

Feasibility Study:

Abstract / Executive Summary:
This will be a brief summarizing statement, usually between 75 and 150 words long, providing the reader a synopsis of the problem, method, results, and conclusions of your document.

This should ideally consist:
  • Problems: Identify the key topic or problems in the client’s website, if any or suggest viable ways to design new web application / product by demonstrating the problem in other websites / products.
  • Method: Specify main approach to solving the mentioned problems
  • Results: Describe possible outcomes for the methods applied.
  • Conclusion: Detail the conclusion you derive from the overall effort.
  • The target market / audience
    • purpose of the organization
    • short and long-term goals of the site
    • Intended audiences
    • Why will people come to your site?
    • Business goals
    • Competitive websites / references

  • Problems in the existing website
    • The existing business processes (wherever applicable)
    • Processes which can be refined or redesigned
    • The brand identity issues (lack of powerful branding)

  • New design strategy
    • New Information Design
    • Information Architecture & wire-frame designs
    • Usability & Accessibility Strategy
    • Visual Design strategy

  • Application Development
    • New front-end development
    • Optimized for User-ease
    • More accessible & usable

  • Feasibility Conclusions
    • How new website will help rebranding
    • How it is more usable than the existing website (Usability & Accessibility issues)
    • How it is technically better (in terms of loading time, frontend & database design, etc.)
    • How it is better for search engineso How it more “Usable & accessible”

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Designing Banking Application

Internet banking in India as well globally is gaining faster acceptance. An estimated 4.6 million users transfer funds online and this number (includes mobile banking figures), according to the Internet and Mobile Association of India, is expected to increase to 16 million by 2007-08.

There are some basic principles while designing a banking website or an internet banking application (though there are few more rules when it comes to designing an ‘online banking’ application). I have listed some of my learnings below, (which I had while I was working on a banking website for a reputed multinational bank in India, as well as its internet banking application interface also).

Following are some basic rules / principles which you should understand & put into practice while designing websites specially for banking domain.

  • Know everything possible about ‘end-user’:
    Before you start on anything, you should know about the end user; all the demographics like who? Why they are here? What they want to do with this website. All this information will help you to structure your website / application in accordance to it, in terms of information design, content structuring, content prioritization, visual design & much more; which will lead to a usable website for the target users, being a site based & focused to their needs.

  • Good ‘aesthetic’ design:
    Designing a banking website is slightly a difficult task, as you have to balance the website design from being too much corporate as well as being too loud or casual.Users coming here are not looking for ‘fun’ stuff but want to perform a specific task & has not time to go through lot of content or don’t want to loose himself in the design itself. So, the banking website design has to be very balanced & powerful enough to do the bank’s branding as well.

  • Content Relativity:
    Users come to banking websites to get some ‘specific’ information or to do some ‘transaction’. Unfortunately, many banks assumes their websites as a sales & promotion way, in which, they load up their websites with such not-crucial content. Most importantly, as banking users likes facts about the banks such as interest rates, service charges, etc., that content should get a highlight on the homepage also. Also, content related to quick access, bank tools, support information should get prominence.

  • Easy to use:
    Banking sites are supposed to be “easy to access” because end-users coming to such sites are there with specific intentions & may not have much time to spend. Don’t make a user learn your website. Make it easy & lucid enough that all the critical components & facts related to showed upfront & are easily accessible.

    For example, you can use a ‘quick access menu’ so that he can access all the core sections of the website at a single click & is available on every page. Also, usage of “breadcrumbs” & consistent navigation zone as well as “login” space will make it easy for the site user, along with ‘links which are easy to understand being underlined’.

  • Most important thing – Security:
    Online banking users are ‘very’ conscious about the “security”. They need to feel secure while using a banking website, by making the user ‘feel secure’ by placing ‘security information, alerts about the encrypted sections, and fraudulent e-mails about banks, etc. Information such as “128 bit SSL security” & such information should be visible clearly making a user relax about the transaction security as well as while submitting any kind information over the internet.

    For example, while logging in to an internet banking application, a user can be provided with a graphical keypad which changes its character placement on each refresh of the page, which avoids the keyboard usage & makes it difficult to track by the hackers online.